Today was the day that the movers came and packed up our whole life and took it with them!
I've been getting asked by friends and family who are not associated with the military why we would have our stuff packed up an entire month before we are supposed to leave. I guess I figured that it was common sense that since Germany is so far away from America that shipping an entire house full of things from one continent to another would take time, but then I remembered that nothing about the military lifestyle is common sense so I thought I'd take a second to explain why we are sending our things so "early."
Shipping our belongings across the ocean takes 4-6 weeks, sometimes longer depending on where the belongings are being shipped to (from Nebraska to Germany it took 8 weeks). That means that we will be without our things for that amount of time. After Eric got his orders we were able to book our plane tickets and then get on the waiting list for housing in Virginia, once those dates were all lined up we had to decide if we wanted to go without our things here? Or there? For us, it made more sense and was the most convenient, to go without our things here.
For starters, we are not taking our living room furniture back to the States with us, so we will still have them to use until we leave. Also, the Army will issue us temporary bedroom furniture for free until it is time for us to leave; unlike in the States where we would have to either go without, or borrow or rent beds until ours arrived, at our cost. We have our 220v appliances (hair dryer, coffee maker, vacuum, etc...) that won't work in the States so we can hang on to them and they'll get us by for the next few weeks. And we can easily go to the €1 store and pick up any of the little kitchen things we will probably need and then recycle them just before we leave. So all in all, we won't be without the necessities at any point here in Germany until it's time for us to get on the airplane. In Virginia we would either have to go without all of those things and literally be camping out in an empty house, or buy all of those things until our 110v equivalents arrived. And if you know my husband, you know that buying things we already have is not an option. We are comfortable here, this is our home and everything is familiar, it makes sense to us to go without our things here longer, rather than at a new unfamiliar place where we are not comfortable. Either way, we have to go without our things for a while, it was just a matter of how we wanted to split that while up.
So, like I was saying, today was the day that the movers came and packed up our whole life and took it with them!
You would think that having the military pack up and move your things for you would be the least stressful way to move.... but dammit, it's not. I have moved every 3 years since I was 21 years old. I have lived in 3 different states, 4 different cities, and now 1 foreign country. I don't think that that makes me an expert on moving, but when it comes to moving your belongings from one living space to another, I do feel pretty confident in telling you that there is no way to move and it not be stressful.
We all know that I am neurotic and obsessive and extremely organized and a little bit of a germaphobe. I can admit it, maybe because being this nutso is close to impossible to hide effectively, but I can admit it. The thing about the military packing up all of your stuff for you is that they walk in, pack everything into whatever box that happens to be near them, load up their truck, and leave. It is not their job, or their responsibility, to clean and organize your stuff for you. They do their best to not break anything, but they don't give a flying hoot if you're a neurotic obsessive mess about her things.
And well... I do give a flying hoot.
I want my stuff to be clean and organized before the movers pack it up so that they are only packing clean things. I want to take everything out of the drawers, look at them individually, maybe even count them depending on what it is, clean it, and then put it in a tote that I've bought specifically for that item. I want to take everything off my walls for the movers and tape the nail that my picture frame hung on to the back of it so that when I unpack it in Virginia in a few months, it will be all ready to hang in my new home.
I want all of my blankets and extra clothes to be cleaned, dried, and then vacuum sealed in organized space-bags for each coordinating item (comforters with comforters, sheets with sheets, cuddly blankets with cuddly blankets, clothes with clothes, etc...). I want the electrical cords to all of our electronics to be nicely coiled up and then zip-tied together so that they don't get tangled. I want all of my cooking spices to be sealed with press-and-seal (best invention ever) then put into individual ziplock bags and taped shut so that they don't leak. I purposely saved the boxes that some of our appliances or larger purchases came in, like our Keurig and cuckoo clock so that when it came time to move we could re-package them in their original packaging.
I want everything to be pulled out of drawers and closets and condensed down as much as possible. I want to purge or recycle every last item that we do not need or have not seen in the 3 1/2 years we've been living here because I can't handle clutter and refuse to hold onto things that we have zero use for. I want the movers to only pack the things that we actually need.
And hopefully, after doing all of those things, it will mean that they can come in, pack it up, and LEAVE (i.e get the hell out of my house and let me start cleaning because my brain is itching staring at all of the chaos and I can't stand it).
I have had friends tell me that they have had garbage out of their trash can, the utensil basket from their dishwasher, wet clothes from their washer, and their house manual for base housing packed up with their things and sealed into a crate. Another friend told me that she had a hot fresh-out-of-the-oven pan of brownies made especially for the hard working movers packed up right along with their other dishes and sealed into a crate ready and waiting for her and her family at their next duty station.
You guys, the thought of unpacking garbage from my garbage can months after it was packed up in a different country and then put onto a ship headed out on the ocean literally makes me gag. I can't! I just. can't.
I want to avoid all of those scenarios at all costs.
To ensure that the movers did not pack things that they weren't supposed to we filled two of our bathrooms and our car with our essentials that could not risk getting packed onto a cargo ship; things like our personal documents, suitcases, etc... We shut Isabelle's cat, Carley, into Isabelle's bathroom with her food, water, and liter box so that she didn't get scared by all of the noise and want to run out of the open front door that everyone was in and out of all day long. Then I put up 'bitte nicht packen' signs up on both bathroom doors with tape across them saying 'nein!' so that there was fair warning to not enter the bathroom (but I'm fairly certain that the howling cat on the other side of Isabelle's bathroom door was warning enough to not open the damn door unless you wanted your face clawed off).
But today I realized that my obsessive planning and organizing only goes so far. If I had known that I would be spending the entire day watching in horror as the movers packed random crap with random crap, I would have just spent all of that energy on getting wasted instead.
At one point I had to stifle a panicked yelp as I watched the really nice mover pack our flat-screen HD TV (that he did not wrap in paper first), our expensive Scottish kilt that I had professionally framed, a large metal family photo that hung above our couch, a large multi-frame picture frame I had hung on the opposite wall, three other wall decorations, AND the very heavy TV base for our flat-screen all in the same box, surrounded only by Isabelle's old stuffed animals as padding. Or when our genuine Bohemian crystal wine cups & decanter got packed into the same box as one of our dining room chairs.
My head was going to explode.
I had to stop watching after that.
Now if you're thinking that I'm maybe just a little too high strung and I should just calm the f*^k down about the whole moving thing, I wouldn't argue with you, but you should know that my husband is the same way! Okay well maybe not quite at my level, but he is an absolute perfectionist and together, we're unstoppable! So while I needed to count things in our kitchen and clean everything that came off the walls, Eric condensed everything down, made a million trips to the recycling center, and stayed on top of all of the paperwork and phone calls we needed to make. But he too ran into frustrations (that I'm beginning to think are unavoidable no matter how organized you try to be).
It turned out that we were missing a POA for shipping our alcohol, so he had to spend the morning at the Transportation Office getting it all taken care of while I stayed at home with the movers stifling yelps and crying silently at the never ending chaos and random packing.
Even though Eric and I spent a lot of time and energy doing all of these neurotic things in preparation for a giant move across the ocean, we know that things will get misplaced, probably broken, and most definitely dirty by the time that we see our stuff again. Shit happens, I get it. But we got through it. Our stuff is officially on it's way back to America! I am not even a little bit confident that it's all going in one piece, but whatever... it's on it's way.
And we won't be too far behind!